Peru to make contact with isolated tribe for first time

Tue Jul 21, 2015 6:39pm EDT
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By Mitra Taj

LIMA (Reuters) - Peru will try to make contact for the first time with an Amazonian tribe that largely lives isolated in the jungle, part of a bid to ease tensions with nearby villages after a bow-and-arrow attack in May, authorities said on Tuesday.

Government anthropologists will try to talk with a clan of Mashco Piro Indians to understand why they have been emerging from the forest, said deputy culture minister Patricia Balbuena.

In recent years the Mashco Piro have increasingly been spotted seeking machetes and food outside their jungle enclaves in the Manu National Park in southeastern Peru.

Villagers, Christian proselytizers and tourists have all interacted with the tribe, often giving them clothes and food.

"The only ones who haven't been in contact with them are representatives of the state!" said Balbuena.

Peru prohibits contact with the Mashco Piro and another dozen "uncontacted" tribes, mainly because their immune systems carry little resistance to common illnesses.

Authorities have said they cannot keep people from defying the contact ban because no penalty is attached.

Indigenous group FENAMAD warned that the decision to contact the Mashco Piro could legitimize the kind of unwanted interactions that have decimated isolated tribes in the past.   Continued...

Members of the Mashco-Piro tribe observe a group of travelers from across the Alto Madre de Dios river in the Manu National Park in the Amazon basin of southeastern Peru, as photographed through a bird scope October 21, 2011.  REUTERS/Jean-Paul Van Belle